Lifetime love of tennis

Lionel Walsh and his wife Margaret at the Barcaldine Lawn Tennis Club.

By Michael R Williams

Lionel Walsh has dedicated over half a decade of his life to the tennis community in Barcaldine.

He has been pivotal to the club’s evolution both physically through helping fund its refurbishment and through his hours of unpaid coaching.

He has now been recognised at the Queensland Tennis Awards for the Geoffrey E Griffith Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award.

Mr Walsh said he was surprised to have received the award.

“I thought, ‘why me’?” he said.

“Nobody from here nominated me, it came from Tennis Queensland.

“Then I thought 63 years of continuous service, there’s wouldn’t be too many people that have done that.”

Mr Walsh said achieving the award was a good feeling.

“Tennis Queensland flew us down and back,” he said.

“It was a big affair in Parliament House, with half a dozen members of parliament.

“Yeah treated us royally, they gave out 15 or 20 awards, then at the end they said, we came to the main event – and that was me!”

Mr Walsh is former president and now treasurer of the Barcaldine Lawn Tennis Club.

He has been a part of the tennis club since 1959.

“It would be 63 years continuous (at the club) since I was an adult and played a bit before that as a junior,” Mr Walsh said.

“In those 63 years, I’ve always had some (committee) role or other – I had 14 years as president.

“I’ve been court captain, committee member, groundsman, secretary, and now treasurer.”

Mr Walsh said his most proud moment was when he lobbied the committee to build the new clubhouse.

“In 1987, I charged the committee to raise the funds for it because we had a very old clubhouse,” he said.

“In fact, when we did manage to take the roof off the walls fell down.

“It was pretty ramshackled back then so, we built the new brick clubhouse which, you know, it’s very good.”

Mr Walsh, with his wife Margaret, who he describes as the real hero, went into catering to raise funds for the house.

“She organised everything, so we did any catering big or small that came along,” Mr Walsh said.

“For a few years, we did everything for all the sports.

“The biggest catering event we ever did was when they had the Queensland Apex event in Barcaldine, and we had to cook breakfast for 522 people three days in a row.

“So, at four o’clock in the morning, 23 members we needed there to cook whatever you know.

“And you had to have everything organised because at four o’clock in the morning there are no shops open.”

From 1987 to 1990, the Tennis Club Committee raised $90,000.

“Considering we only had 90 club members at the time, 30 of whom were kids, so that’s $1000 raised for every club member,” he said.

“So that was a big one.:

In 1990 when they went into the new clubhouse, the courts fell to pieces.

“They were hard courts so they just fell apart,” he said.

“So, we had to spend the money on the courts no use having a clubhouse if you have no courts.

“So we put down our first Mitchell grass courts.”

The next year they went to the Barcaldine Council who gave $50,000 toward “the whole show”.

“I said the next year, to the committee, ‘I think you all deserve a break’,” Mr Walsh said.

“They told me no ‘we want to build the club house’.

“So, we built the clubhouse mostly by voluntary labour.”

Looking at the clubhouse now, it was a “pretty impressive effort”.

Lionel Walsh has been a life member of the Barcaldine Lawn Tennis Club since the 1980s,

he said that with the increase of different sports, Tennis numbers have gone down since then.

“Nowadays, everyone likes something different,” he said.

“So, it’s much harder to grab you a slice of members, so we have fewer numbers than we used.

“We’re still a viable club, I think we’re the only club in Central West playing continuous fixtures.”